Posts tagged ‘NASA’

A Third of Government is Shutting Down and The Only Lost Function Anyone Can Name is Parks

First, you did not read the title wrong.  A government shutdown means only about a third of the government actually shuts down.  But the more amazing thing is that given multiple opportunities to name what we would lose if this one third goes away, all anyone can name is parks.  This is from a Q&A by the Associated Press via Zero Hedge, which says we would lose parks and have some delays in new disability applications and, uh, we would lose parks.

About one-third of the government will shut down. About 800,000 of about 2.1 million federal employees will be sent home without pay. National parks will close.

NASA will continue to keep workers at Mission Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space station, where two Americans and four other people live. Aside from that only about 3 percent of NASA's 18,000 workers will keep working.

The military and other agencies involving safety and security would continue to function. These include air traffic controllers, border patrol and law enforcement officers. Social Security, Medicare and veterans' benefits payments would continue, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications.

A partial shutdown that lasts no more than a few days wouldn't likely nick the economy much. But if the shutdown were to persist for two weeks or more, the economy would likely begin to slow, economists say.

Extended closures of national parks would hurt hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses. Delays in processing visas for overseas visitors could interrupt trade. And the one-third of the federal workforce that lost pay would cut back on spending, thereby slowing growth.

So there you have it -- we lay off 800,000 government workers and the only two losses the AP can come up with is that national parks will close and those 800,000 people will have less to spend.    Since the NPS employs about 22,000 people, this means that the other 778,000 have a contribution to the economy that consists mainly of drawing and then spending a salary?

I would love to see the government shutdown rules modified to add National Parks to the critical assets that remain open in a shutdown, since this seems the only thing anyone cares about.  Then it would be fascinating to see how the downside of the shutdown would be spun.  I can see the headlines now.   "AP:  Millions of TPS reports go unfiled".

Update:  My company runs parks under concession contract in the National Forest and for other government agencies.  In all previous shutdowns, we have remained open, since we pay money into the government budget rather than draw money out, and since the parks we operate employ no government workers.  This time, though, we are starting to get notices we have to shut down too.  This may be an attempt by the administration to artificially make the shutdown worse than it needs to be.  I will update you as I learn more.

Summer of the Shark, Toyota Edition

A couple of weeks ago I discussed media coverage of summer temperatures in the US in the context of the crazy 2001 "summer of the shark" panic, where the media took a below-average year for shark attacks and played it up with constant coverage into the work shark attack year ever.

In 2010 we had another summer of the shark, this time with the fears over Toyota sudden accelerations.  We even were treated with an OJ-White-Bronco-like real-time video of some moron in a Prius who supposedly couldn't find the brake peddle for scores of miles on an LA freeway.  I expressed skepticism immediately that there was really a hardware / electronics problem behind the accelerations, and wondered whether the US government's ownership of Toyotas competitors might not have something to do with all the Senate hearings and government attention.  Eventually, the NHTSA and other government agencies determined there was no flaw with the Toyotas, that the sudden acceleration was merely due to operator error (ie jamming a foot on the wrong peddle).  This happens a lot, as it turns out, and I remember Walter Olson once found a stat that a huge percentage of sudden acceleration cases that make it to court seem to involved people over 70 or under 20.

ABC led the parade on this particular shark attack.  They used "safety experts" who were actually in the pay of plaintiff's lawyers, without disclosing this conflict of interest.  They actually tampered with their tested Toyotas and claimed they replicated the "spontaneous" acceleration:

It is hard to spot the lowest behavior in the affair so far, but that honor can arguably go to ABC and the lengths to which it went to pretend it had recreated the problem.  In fact, they had to strip three wires, splice in a resistor of a very specific value and then short two other wires.  They made it sound like this is something that could easily happen naturally  (lol) but this is an easy thing to prove – and inspection of actual throttle assemblies from cars that have supposedly exhibited the sudden acceleration problem have shown no evidence of such shorting.  So the ABC story was completely fraudulent, similar to the old Dateline NBC story that secretly used model rocket engines to ignite gas tanks.   Its amazing to me that Toyota, acting in good faith will get sued for billions over a complex problem which may or may not exist in a few cars, while ABC will suffer no repercussions from outright fraud.

Basically ABC proved that if you bypass a potentiometer with a resistor, you can spoof the potentiometer setting.  Duh.  The same hack on a radio would cause sudden acceleration of your volume.

So, given some time and reflection, eventually the rest of the journalistic community has brought some accountability to ABC by publicly shaming them for this shoddy journalism.  Ha ha, just kidding.  They just gave ABC and its reporter one of their highest awards for the story

Congratulations to Brian Ross, America's Wrongest Reporter, for winning a coveted Edward R. Murrow Award honoring his coverage of the Toyota unintended acceleration story. The award, oddly, is for "Video Continuing Coverage" rather than "Fostering Global Panic Based on Bullshit Story." Still, a Murrow is a Murrow, right? Let's go to tape.

Ross, you will recall, was one of the driving forces behind the Runaway Toyota Panic of '10, which was later determined by NASA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to have been largely the result of idiots stepping on the accelerator when they intended to step on the brake, and of other idiots talking about it on TV. Ross was one of those idiots. For some reason, ABC News submitted four of Ross' Toyota reports to the Radio Television Digital News Association for award consideration.

One report they didn't submit was the one where Gawker caught Ross staging footage to make it seem like a Toyota was accelerating out of control when it was in fact parked with the emergency brake on, doors open, and someone stepping on the gas. We're told by an ABC News insider that, even though it didn't nominate that segment, the network "acknowledged and owned that mistake" in its awards submission. Good for them! Now let's see them acknowledge and own these mistakes from the segments it did submit. For instance:

In two of the winning reports, Ross quoted safety expert Sean Kane criticizing Toyota and insisting that there were cases of unintended acceleration that "couldn't be explained by floormats," which Toyota had recalled in 2009 after some mats became stuck under gas pedals. What he didn't report was that Kane was being paid by plaintiff's attorneys who were suing Toyota over unintended acceleration cases, and so had a financial incentive to argue that there was more to the Runaway Toyota scare than just floormats. Indeed, in other ABC News segments that the network didn't nominate, Ross showed Kane saying—again without disclosing his relationship to plaintiff's attorneys—"We clearly think that Toyota has a larger problem on their hands that involves the electronics with these vehicles." That position—that electronics were involved—was later eviscerated by the NASA/NHTSA report, which found "no electronic flaws in Toyota vehicles capable of producing the large throttle openings required to create dangerous high-speed unintended acceleration incidents."

Global Warming Ate My House

This has already made the rounds but I can't resist mocking an HBS professors whose classes I assiduously avoided when I was there.  Her house was hit by lightning.  Apparently, this was not the fault of poor lightning protection for her house, but was due to your SUV:

I am not a climate change scientist, but I have come to understand that I am a climate change victim. Our daughter took the lead investigating destructive lightning in Maine. She found that the NASA Goddard Institute estimates a 5-6% change in global lightning frequencies for every 1 degree Celsius global warming. The Earth has already warmed .8 degrees Celsius since 1802 and isexpected to warm another 1.1-6.4 degrees by the end of the century. Maine's temperatures rose 1.9 degrees Celsius in the last century and another 2.24 degree rise is projected by 2104. I learned from our insurance company that while the typical thunderstorm produces around 100 lightning strikes, there were 217 strikes around our house that night. I was shocked to discover that when it comes to increased lightning frequency and destructiveness, a NASA study concluded that eastern areas of North America like Maine are especially vulnerable. Scientists confirm a 10% increase in the incidence of extreme weather events in our region since 1949.

This is one of those paragraphs that is so bad, I put off writing about it because I could write a book about all the errors.

  • The 5-6% lightning strike estimate comes from one single study that I have never seen replicated, but more importantly comes from running a computer model.  Though it may exist, I have found no empirical evidence that lightning activity has net increased with increases in temperature
  • The world has warmed about 0.8C over the last century or two. Congrats.  Infinite monkeys and Shakespeare and all that.
  • We could argue the forecasts, but they are irrelevant to this discussion as we are talking about current weather which cannot be influenced by future warming.
  • Her claim that Maine's temperature rose 1.9C in the last Century is simply absurd.  Apparently she got the data from some authoritative place called nextgenerationearth.com, but its impossible to know since in the few days since she published this article that site has taken down the page.  So we will just have to rely on a lesser source like the NOAA for Maine temperatures.  Here story is from 2009 so I used data through 2009

Annual Averages in Maine:

Oops, not a lot of warming here, and certainly not 1.9C.  In fact, there has not even been a single year that has been 1.9C above the average for the century since the early 1900s.  And 2009 was a below average year.
Well, she said it was in summer.  That's when we get the majority of thunderstorms.  Maybe it is just summer warming?  The NOAA does not have a way to get just summer, but I can run average temperatures for July-September of each year, which matches summer within about 8 days.

Whoa!  What's this?  A 0.3-0.4C drop in the last 100 years.   And summer of 2009 (the last data point) was well below average. Wow, I guess cooling causes lightning.  We better do something about that cooling, and fast!  Or else buy this professor some lightning rods.
And you have to love evidence like this

I learned from our insurance company that while the typical thunderstorm produces around 100 lightning strikes, there were 217 strikes around our house that night

What is this, the climate version of the Lake Wobegone Effect?  If all our storms are not below average, then that is proof of climate change.  Is this really how a Harvard professor does statistical analysis?  She can just look at a sample and the mean and determine from that one sample that the mean is shifting?

Finally, she goes on to say that extreme weather in her area is up 10% from some source called the Gulf of Maine Council on Marine Environment.  Well, of course, you can't find that fact anywhere on the source she links.  And besides, even if Maine extreme weather is up, it can't be because of warming because Maine seems to be cooling.

This is just a classic example of the observer bias that is driving the whole "extreme weather" meme.  I will show you what is going on by analogy.  This is from the Wikipedia page on "Summer of the Shark":

The media's fixation with shark attacks began on July 6, when 8-year-old Mississippi boy Jessie Arbogast was bitten by a bull shark while standing in shallow water at Santa Rosa Island's Langdon Beach. ...

Immediately after the near-fatal attack on Arbogast, another attack severed the leg of a New Yorker vacationing in The Bahamas, while a third attack on a surfer occurred about a week later on July 15, six miles from the spot where Arbogast was bitten.[6] In the following weeks, Abrogast's spectacular rescue and survival received extensive coverage in the 24-hour news cycle, which was renewed (and then redoubled) with each subsequent report of a shark incident. The media fixation continued story with a cover story in the July 30th issue of Time magazine.

In mid-August, many networks were showing footage captured by helicopters of hundreds of sharks coalescing off the southwest coast of Florida. Beach-goers were warned of the dangers of swimming,[7] despite the fact that the swarm was likely part of an annual shark migration.[8] The repeated broadcasts of the shark group has been criticized as blatant fear mongering, leading to the unwarranted belief of a so-called shark "epidemic".[8]...

In terms of absolute minutes of television coverage on the three major broadcast networks—ABCCBS, and NBCshark attacks were 2001's third "most important" news story prior toSeptember 11, behind the western United States forest fires, and the political scandal resulting from the Chandra Levy missing persons case.[11] However, the comparatively higher shock value of shark attacks left a lasting impression on the public. According to the International Shark Attack File, there were 76 shark attacks that occurred in 2001, lower than the 85 attacks documented in 2000; furthermore, although 5 people were killed in attacks in 2001, this was less than the 12 deaths caused by shark attacks the previous year.[12]

A trend in news coverage <> a trend in the underlying frequency. If these were correlated, gas prices would only go up and would never come down.

Warning: Crimes Against Humanity May Be Found Here

According not to some random weird dude found on a campus in California, but to the head of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, I am guilty of crimes against humanity for questioning whether the world's climate system is really dominated by strong positive feedback

One of the world’s most widely respected climatologists, James Hansen, director of NASA-GISS, which focuses on the study of earth’s climate for the space agency, testified to Congress in 2008 that the CEOs of fossil fuel companies (who, according to various professional reporting have been promoting this and other misleading messages about global warming in conjunction with ideological groups trying to prevent government regulation) “knew what they were doing” and, as stated in his written testimony to Congress in 2008, were guilty of “high crimes against humanity and nature.”

Hansen tells ABC News — in a phone call from the U.K. where he’s been traveling — that he used that highly charged phrase, crime against humanity, “not only for dramatic effect, but also because it is accurate, given the enormous scale of the consequences to humanity” if manmade global warming is not somehow stopped and reversed.

“It wasn’t only aimed at the fossil fuel CEOs,” Hansen added on the phone. “This also applies to politicians who pretend the global warming is not manmade.”....

“Crimes Against Humanity” is a category of culpability that found currency in the last century as a label for such atrocities as genocide, including the Nazi Holocaust.

This is a grave accusation, laden with great emotion, but it has not been made lightly — rather with extensive study and forethought.

You have been warned.

Stupid Math Tricks

James Hansen, head of NASA's GISS and technical adviser on An Inconvenient Truth, wrote recently

Thus there is no need to equivocate about the summer heat waves in Texas in 2011 and Moscow in 2010, which exceeded 3σ – it is nearly certain that they would not have occurred in the absence of global warming. If global warming is not slowed from its current pace, by mid-century 3σ events will be the new norm and 5σ events will be common.

This statement alone should be enough for any thoughtful person who here-to-fore has bought in to global warming hysteria out of vague respect for "science" to question their beliefs.

First, he is basically arguing that a 3σ event proves (makes it "nearly certain") that some shift has occurred in the underlying process.  In particular, he is arguing that one single sample's value is due to a mean shift in the system.  I don't have a ton of experience in process control and quality, but my gut feel is that a 3σ event can be just that, a 3σ event.  One should expect a 3σ event to occur, on average, once in every 300 samples of a system with a normal distribution of outcomes.

Second, and a much bigger problem, is that Hansen is gaming the sampling process.  First, he is picking an isolated period.  Let's say, to be generous, that this 3σ event stretched over 3 months and was unprecedented in the last century.  But there are 400 3-month periods in the last hundred years.  So he is saying in these two locations there was a 3σ temperature excursion once out of 400 samples.  Uh, ok.  Pretty much what one would expect.

Or, if you don't like the historic approach, lets focus on just this year.  He treats Moscow and Texas like they are the only places being sampled, but in fact they are two of hundreds or even thousands of places on Earth.  Since he does not focus on any of the others, we can assume these are the only two that have so-called 3σ temperature events this summer.

It's hard to know how large to define "Texas"  (since the high temperatures did not cover the whole state) or "Moscow" (since clearly the high temperatures likely reached beyond the suburbs of just that city).

Let's say that the 3σ event occurred in a circular area 500km in diameter.  That is an area of 196,250 sq km each.  But the land surface area of the Earth (we will leave out the oceans for now since heat waves there don't tend to make the headlines) is about 150 million sq km.   This means that each of these areas represent about 1/764th of the land surface area of the Earth.  Or said another way, this summer there were 764 500km diameter land areas we could sample, and 2 had 3σ events.  Again, exactly as expected.

In other words, Hansen's that something unusual is going on in the system is that he found two 3σ events that happened once every 300 or 400 samples.  You feeling better about the science yet?

Luboš Motl has a more sophisticated discussion of the same statement, and gets into other issues with Hansen's statement.

Postscript:  One other issue -- the mean shift in temperatures over the last 30 years has been, at most, about 0.5C  (a small number compared to the Moscow temperature excursion from the norm).  Applying that new mean and the historic standard deviation, my guess is that the Moscow event would have still been a 2.5σ event.  So its not clear how an event that would have been unlikely even with global warming but slightly more unlikely without global warming tells us much of anything about changes in the underlying system, or how Hansen could possible assign blame for the even with near certainty to anthropogenic CO2.

Real Climate Change We Might Want to Worry About

The sun follows an (approximately) 11-year cycle as sunspots ebb and flow.  The peak of these cycles, ie the number of sunspots at the cycle's maximum, is thought to correlate with the strength of the sun's output.  In the past, periods with very low sunspot activity through an entire cycle have correlated with very cold temperatures (e.g. the Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice Age).

Well, NASA has updated its forecast for this cycle and it does not look good:

Current prediction for the next sunspot cycle maximum gives a smoothed sunspot number maximum of about 62 in July of 2013. We are currently over two years into Cycle 24. The predicted size would make this the smallest sunspot cycle in nearly 200 years.

The low cycle 200 years ago coincided with a decade or more of wicked-cold temperatures, particularly in Northern Europe  (think Napoleon's army freezing to death in 1812).

One of the reasons this probably has not gotten much coverage is that climate scientists have worked hard in the media to attribute the vast majority of past warming, particularly in the period 1978-1998, to ppm changes in CO2 concentration.  But this same 2-decade period saw extremely high solar activity (as measured by sunspots) and ocean cycles like the PDO in the warm phase.  To maximize how much past warming was attributed to CO2, warming alarmists had to take the fairly absurd position that these ocean cycles and changes in solar output had only trivial effects on temperatures (much more here).

Well, we may find out over the next few years just how trivial Mr. Sun is or is not to the climate.  And we may well find out something else many skeptics have said for years -- for activities like agriculture, cooling is way more damaging than warming.  In the Middle Ages, agriculture boomed from 1100-1300 even as temperatures rose higher than they are today (at least in Europe).  In the first decades of the 1300's, cooling led to agricultural failure and famine, famines that are often credited for weakening the population and thus increasing the mortality from the Black Death a few years later.

Japanese Nukes, Michael Crichton, and Frank Borman

I have always enjoyed Michael Crichton's books, but sometimes turn up my nose at his science.  I must say though that the chain of seemingly stupid errors that led to the park crashing in Jurassic Park bear an amazing resemblance to what is going on with the Japanese nuclear plans.  I don't buy his application of chaos theory to the chain of events, but its hard not to see parallels to this:

Engineers had begun using fire hoses to pump seawater into the reactor — the third reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 complex to receive the last-ditch treatment — after the plant's emergency cooling system failed. Company officials said workers were not paying sufficient attention to the process, however, and let the pump run out of fuel, allowing the fuel rods to become partially exposed to the air.

Once the pump was restarted and water flow was restored, another worker inadvertently closed a valve that was designed to vent steam from the containment vessel. As pressure built up inside the vessel, the pumps could no longer force water into it and the fuel rods were once more exposed.

The other line I am reminded of comes from the docu-drama "From the Earth to the Moon."  In the episode after the fire on Apollo 1, they have Frank Borman testifying to a hostile Congressional committee about the fire.  When asked to explain the root cause, he said "a failure of imagination."  I don't know if this is a true quote of his or purely fiction, but it resonates with me from my past troubleshooting work.  Almost every fire or major failure we looked at in the refinery resulted from a chain of events that no one had even anticipated or thought possible, generally in combination with a series of stupid human screwups.  I would describe the Japanese nuclear plant problems in the same light.

Update: Failure of Imagination from Wikipedia

From IMDB, how the line was quoted in the mini-series

Clinton Anderson: [at the senate inquiry following the Apollo 1 fire] Colonel, what caused the fire? I'm not talking about wires and oxygen. It seems that some people think that NASA pressured North American to meet unrealistic and arbitrary deadlines and that in turn North American allowed safety to be compromised.
Frank Borman: I won't deny there's been pressure to meet deadlines, but safety has never been intentionally compromised.
Clinton Anderson: Then what caused the fire?
Frank Borman: A failure of imagination. We've always known there was the possibility of fire in a spacecraft. But the fear was that it would happen in space, when you're 180 miles from terra firma and the nearest fire station. That was the worry. No one ever imagined it could happen on the ground. If anyone had thought of it, the test would've been classified as hazardous. But it wasn't. We just didn't think of it. Now who's fault is that? Well, it's North American's fault. It's NASA's fault. It's the fault of every person who ever worked on Apollo. It's my fault. I didn't think the test was hazardous. No one did. I wish to God we had.

Obama Meets With James Taggert and Oren Boyle

Amanda Carey via the Daily Caller:

On Wednesday, President Obama met with a group of about 20 CEOs in a five-hour long summit, reportedly in an attempt to soothe the souring relationship between big business and big government. From almost all accounts, the "charm offensive" was successful.

By the end, Boeing CEO John McNerney is reported to have said, "We all wanted to move beyond the talk that made this confrontational environment. We made our apologies." Honeywell International CEO David Cote said after the meeting, "Government is the enabler of business"¦Government and business need to work together."

What Cote did not mention is that his company has already been working closely with the Obama Administration, and was a major beneficiary of the Recovery Act "” as were many of the other companies represented. According toRecovery.gov, Honeywell received over $44 million in grants from the Department of Energy (DOE) for renewable energy initiatives. Honeywell also raked in more than $24 million in a variety of different government contracts from agencies like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense.

Can the Aviation Equalization of Opportunity Act be far behind?  The meeting of 19 CEO's and a leading VC (who feeds noisily at the green energy trough) sounds like the corporate state round-table.

But I Am Sure This Would Never Happen in Climate

Wow, suddenly skepticism, and even outright harsh criticism, of peer-reviewed work is OK, as long as it is not in climate I suppose.

On Thursday, Dec. 2, Rosie Redfield sat down to read a new paper called "A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus." Despite its innocuous title, the paper had great ambitions. Every living thing that scientists have ever studied uses phosphorus to build the backbone of its DNA. In the new paper, NASA-funded scientists described a microbe that could use arsenic instead. If the authors of the paper were right, we would have to expand our....

As soon Redfield started to read the paper, she was shocked. "I was outraged at how bad the science was," she told me.

Redfield blogged a scathing attack on Saturday. Over the weekend, a few other scientists took to the Internet as well. Was this merely a case of a few isolated cranks? To find out, I reached out to a dozen experts on Monday. Almost unanimously, they think the NASA scientists have failed to make their case. "It would be really cool if such a bug existed," said San Diego State University's Forest Rohwer, a microbiologist who looks for new species of bacteria and viruses in coral reefs. But, he added, "none of the arguments are very convincing on their own." That was about as positive as the critics could get. "This paper should not have been published," said Shelley Copley of the University of Colorado.

The article goes on to describe many potential failures in the methodology.  None of this should be surprising -- I have written for years that peer-review is by no means proof against bad science or incorrect findings.  It is more of an  extended editorial process.  The real test of published science comes later, when the broader community attempts to replicate results.

The problem in climate science has been that its proponents want to claim that having research performed by a small group of scientists that is peer-reviewed by the same small group is sufficient to making the results "settled science."  Once published, they argue, no one (certainly not laymen on blogs) has the right to criticize it, and the researchers don't (as revealed in the Climategate emails) have any obligations to release their data or code to allow replication.   This is just fresh proof that this position is nuts.

The broken climate science process is especially troubling given the budgetary and reputational incentives to come out with the most dramatic possible results, something NASA's James Hansen has been accused of doing by many climate skeptics.  To this end, consider this from the bacteria brouhaha.  First, we see the same resistance to criticism, trying to deflect any critiques outside of peer-reviewed journals

"Any discourse will have to be peer-reviewed in the same manner as our paper was, and go through a vetting process so that all discussion is properly moderated," wrote Felisa Wolfe-Simon of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. "The items you are presenting do not represent the proper way to engage in a scientific discourse and we will not respond in this manner."

WTF?  How, then, did we ever have scientific process before peer-reviewed journals appeared on the scene?

But Jonathan Eisen of UC-Davis doesn't let the scientists off so easily. "If they say they will not address the responses except in journals, that is absurd," he said. "They carried out science by press release and press conference. Whether they were right or not in their claims, they are now hypocritical if they say that the only response should be in the scientific literature."

Wow, that could be verbatim from a climate skeptic in the climate debate.

And finally, this on incentives and scientific process:

Some scientists are left wondering why NASA made such a big deal over a paper with so many flaws. "I suspect that NASA may be so desperate for a positive story that they didn't look for any serious advice from DNA or even microbiology people," says John Rothof UC-Davis.

The Anti-Industrial Revolution

I stole this post title from Ayn Rand, but it seems appropriate to this story by James Delingpole.  Apparently James Hansen, leader of NASA's GISS, which does most of its climate research, wants to turn back the clock on industrialized civilization.    A new book by Keith Farnish writes:

The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization.

And continues:

I'm rarely afraid of stating the truth, but some truths are far harder to give than others; one of them is that people will die in huge numbers when civilization collapses. Step outside of civilization and you stand a pretty good chance of surviving the inevitable; stay inside and when the crash happens there may be nothing at all you can do to save yourself. The speed and intensity of the crash will depend an awful lot on the number of people who are caught up in it: greater numbers of people have more structural needs "“ such as food production, power generation and healthcare "“ which need to be provided by the collapsing civilization; greater numbers of people create more social tension and more opportunity for extremism and violence; greater numbers of people create more sewage, more waste, more bodies "“ all of which cause further illness and death.

I wonder what Mr. Farnish thinks the average life expectancy was before the industrial revolution, or even "civilization?"  But my intention here is not to shoot fish in Mr. Farnish's barrel.  What is interesting is who approached Farnish and offered, unsolicited, to blurb his book:  James Hansen.  Here is Hansen's endorsement:

Keith Farnish has it right: time has practically run out, and the 'system' is the problem. Governments are under the thumb of fossil fuel special interests "“ they will not look after our and the planet's well-being until we force them to do so, and that is going to require enormous effort.

Does anyone believe that a person who believes this wouldn't misrepresent the science or fudge his temperature metrics to support his cause.  If he expects civilization to crash, why do we expect him to operate by the rules of civilized society?

Awesome Analysis of Urban Biases on Surface Temperature Records

A kid and his dad manage to do the analysis that NASA, the EPA, the CRU, and the IPCC can't be convinced to perform.  Awesome.

Cool

At first, I thought the headline was a joke on government programs.  It read something like "NASA Spitzer telescope discovers ring around Saturn."  I mean, duh.

But it turns out they did find a big, really cool and nearly invisible ring around the larger Saturn system.  Via the Reference Frame

Saturn's Largest Ring

This artist's conception shows a nearly invisible ring around Saturn -- the largest of the giant planet's many rings. It was discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

The artist's conception simulates an infrared view of the giant ring. Saturn appears as just a small dot from outside the band of ice and dust. The bulk of the ring material starts about six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) away from the planet and extends outward roughly another 12 million kilometers (7.4 million miles). The ring's diameter is equivalent to roughly 300 Saturns lined up side to side.

Accountability to Forecasts of Doom

Activists are always making exaggerated statements on current problems and extrapolate these into forecasts of doom.  One thing activists really, really hate is when people come back later and hold them accountable for these forecasts.  You can see it as NASA officials squirm and fire off condescension at skeptics who have the temerity to actually check their global warming forecasts against actual temperatures.

If I had a newspaper, I'd have a special regular feature where I dig back 10-20 years in my archives to find such forecasts of doom and check them against reality  (actually, if I had a paper, I would not allow activist's press releases to show up virtually unedited as "news" stories, but that is another matter).  Heck, I could have a regular feature just reality-checking old Paul Ehrlich forecasts.

Well, I don't have a newspaper, but I do have a blog, and this is a new feature I am working on.  I am still trying to play with various search engines and news libraries (such as the NY Times) to see if I can come up with some kind of query format that efficiently digs up such predictions that are at least 10 years old.  I am still a little stumped on this, but I am working on it.

But, as a sort of beta-test of the feature, one such comparison fell into my lap today.  I remember my feminist wife reading a book published in 1994 called "Failing at Fairness."  This work was a big, big deal at the time.  Media such as the NY Times fawned on it.  I will let a 1994 review on the Society for Women Engineers' site summarize the book:

Failing at Fairness: How American Schools Cheat Girls eloquently describes the results of years of research into sexism in schools. The study began as an examination of gender bias in textbooks, and evolved into a decade of painstaking classroom observation uncovering a "hidden curriculum" in classroom interaction.   Authors Myra and David Sadker present a compelling tale of gender bias in education at all levels.

Taken at face value, the book more than proves the point of the subtitle: our schools cheat girls out of an education equal to that received by boys. The authors do an excellent job of pointing out some of the more subtle ways of favoring boys over girls. However, so many descriptions of incidents of sexism -- blatant, subtle, by old teachers, young teachers, male teachers, female teachers, and even by one of the Sadkers' own "trained" researchers -- are included that it can seem like overkill at
times. In addition, the wealth of statistics can be overwhelming, and yes, even slightly depressing.

One of the more horrifying aspects of Failing at Fairness is the discussion about standardized tests, their historical deliberate design as culturally biased for exclusionary purposes, and the dive in the scores received by girls as they progress through their education.

Current standardized test administrators claim to be more sensitive to cultural prejudices in today's tests, although minority students still score less than white students (at least on the SAT). Also, the book states quite plainly, "Regardless of ethnic or racial background, all American girls share a common bond: a gender gap in test performance that leaves them behind the boys." The prevailing opinion of the discussion group is that the tests are still exclusionary; they are not measuring achievement, but are rather reflecting the way students are taught.

I don't doubt that they found their share of anecdotal issues.  I am sure I could find them today.  But their overall premise that girls were getting hosed by primary education and that standardized tests were structured to exclude girls from college education made no sense even at the time the book was published:

male_female_jobs

The chart is from Mark Perry, and he shows a similar picture for bachelor's degrees, where women blew past men in 1981, and in PHDs, where women passed men in 2006.  People would laugh at this book today, as most discussion is about under-performance of boys.

I don't know the authors, but I would interpret this as the classic inability of activists to declare victory.  I am fairly certain that their hypothesis was far more correct in 1969 than in 1994.  But society really went through a step-change in the 1970s vis a vis attitudes about females.  The previous generation of women's activists did great work to make these issues plain and help lead change in societal attitudes.

But activists have a really hard time declaring victory.  From a quite personal standpoint, declaring victory as an activist is exactly the same as walking into your boss and telling him that the company really doesn't need your job position.  Money, prestige, academic advancement, and attention, and (self-esteem, for certain types of people) are all tied to there being a major problem.  If there is no longer a big problem, then all this stuff goes away.

Savonarola Is At NASA Now

Cross-Posted From Climate Skeptic. 

In
1497, Savonarola tried to end the Italian Renaissance in a massive pyre
of books and artwork (the Bonfire of the Vanities).  The Renaissance
was about inquiry and optimism, neither of which had much appeal to
Savonarola, who thought he had all the answers he needed in his
apocalyptic vision of man.  For him, how the world worked, and
particularly the coming apocalypse, was "settled science" and any
questioning of his world view was not only superfluous, it was evil.

Fortunately, while the enlightenment was perhaps delayed (as much by
the French King and the Holy Roman Emperor as by Savonarola), it mans
questing nature was not to be denied.

But now, the spirit of Savonarola has returned, in the guise of
James Hansen, a man who incredibly calls himself a scientist.  Mr.
Hansen has decided that he is the secular Savonarola, complete with apocalyptic predictions and a righteousness that allows no dissent:

"James
Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call
for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on
trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of
actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that
tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his
groundbreaking speech to the US Congress - in which he was among the
first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming - to argue
that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the "perfect storm"
of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive
officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being
fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are
spreading."

It will be interesting to see
if any champions of free speech on the left can work up the energy to
criticize Hansen here.  What we have is a government official
threatening prosecution and jail time for Americans who exercise their
free speech rights.  GWB, rightly, would never get a pass on this.  Why
does Hansen?

Senior Government Official Using His Position to Presure Textbook Publishers

Anthony Watt has an interesting story of a senior NASA official using his government position to pressure textbook manufacturers to change their books to reflect his view of the world.

Climate Rorschach Test

Over at Climate Skeptic, I have what could be called a climate Rorschach test.  Look at these two images below.  The left is the temperature plot for Lampasas, Texas, a station in the NASA GISS global warming data base.  On the right is the location of the temperature station since the year 2000 (the instrument is in the while cylinder in the middle of the picture under the dish).  Click either picture to expand

Lampasas_tx_ushcn_plot_2

 

Lampasas_tx_ushcn

So here is the eye test:  Do you read the warming since 2000 as man-made global warming due to CO2, or do you read it as a move of the temperature instrument to a totally inappropriate urban site to which the instrument was moved in 2000, contaminated with hot asphalt, car radiators, nearby buildings, air conditioning exhaust, etc?

You should know that NASA's GISS reads this as man-made global warming, and reports it as such.  Further, NASA actually takes the raw data above and in their computer model lowers temperatures in 1900 and 1920, actually increasing the apparent warming trend.  For the record, the GISS opposes this kind of photo survey as worthless and argues that their computer algorithms, which correct for urban warming at this site in 1900 but not in 2007, work just fine with no knowledge of the specific site location.

Bush is a Total Failure

James Hansen is a climate scientist at NASA.  He has accused the Bush administration of exerting too much political control of government scientists and of censoring him.  If so, the Bush administration is doing a really horrible job, as demonstrated by this chart:

Hansen_in_the_news_2

As a libertarian, I am the first to believe that government funding of science is corrupting.  Mr. Hansen should consider leaving the government immediately for one of the many universities who would eagerly have him on their faculty.

Unfortunately, I suspect it is not free inquiry that Mr. Hansen wants.  I suspect he treasures his position of government power.  He does not want a position of equality in a free exchange of ideas, he wants a position of power from which he can dictate without accountability.  He wants government power without the check of accountability and criticism.  He wants someone paying his bills but he doesn't want a boss.  Well grow up.  If you don't like working for the Bush administration or the scrutiny that comes with accepting public funding, and I certainly would not, then leave.

Irony Alert

Over at Climate Skeptic, I take a quick look at the most recent Gavin Schmidt PR piece in the Washington Post, claiming that 2007 was, you know, really hot.

But I wanted to share two funny bits with you.  First, from the climate crowd who claims to have their science so buttoned down that we skeptics should not even be allowed to talk about it any more, comes this:

Taking into account the new data, they said, seven of the eight
warmest years on record have occurred since 2001

What new data?  That another YEAR had been discovered?  Because when
I count on my own fingers, I only can come up with 6 years since 2001.

Second, comes this bit of irony:  There are many reasons why satellites gives us a potentially better measure for world temperatures than surface temperature instruments.  They give us full global coverage (except the poles) and are free of urban and other biases.  So I have always wondered if the only reason that climate scientists defend the surface temperature record over satellites is merely because they don't like the answer satellites are giving (they show less warming than do surface temperature records).

But here is the irony:  The person who is arguably the strongest defender of land-based measurement over satellites, and who maintains what neutral observers feel is the most upwardly-biased surface temperature record, is Gavin Schmidt, who is ... wait for it ... head of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies at NASA.

Nevermind

Up until now, the retreat of Arctic ice to 30 year lows has been credited, without proof, to global warming.  This never made a lot of sense to me, since at the same time Antarctic sea ice was hitting an all-time high.  Over at Climate Skeptic, I discuss a new NASA study that proposes that Arctic sea ice melting over the last decade has been due mainly to shifting wind patterns that basically push the ice into warmer waters where it melts faster.

Is NASA The Largest Source of Global Warming?

Cars made by GM and fuel produce by Exxon may be responsible for a lot of CO2, but no one is creating as much global warming as James Hansen and NASA do just sitting at their computers.  An example, showing a cooling trend in New Zealand before their adjustments, but a strong warming trend after NASA is through with the data, is posted at Climate Skeptic.

Does the US Matter?

After NASA was forced to restate its US temperature data downward, James Hansen argued that the US doesn't matter.  After it was observed that long-term temperature measurement is flawed in South America and Africa, James Hansen agreed and argued that South America and Africa don't matter.  Since oceans cover 75% of the globe and we have no long-term temperature record for these oceans or for Antarctica, I ask the question at Climate Skeptic:  What does matter?

Good News: Hansen Releases the Temperature Code

Good news this week:  James Hansen and NASA have now deigned to release for scrutiny their taxpayer-funded temperature aggregation and adjustment code.  I go in more detail and explain why this matters over at Climate Skeptic.

By the way, if you are wondering why I have calmed down a bit on climate of late here at Coyote Blog, it is because I have decided that my climate work really was diluting what I want to do here at Coyote Blog, and it really deserved its own home and audience.  I have begun archiving old posts over at Climate Skeptic, and I will do most of my new posting on climate there.  Those interested in the climate issues are encouraged to bookmark the new site and/or subscribe to its feed.

For a little while, I will still mirror the headlines over here at Coyote Blog (after all, the paint is still so wet over at Climate Skeptic that I don't think Google has found me yet -- a few blogrolls wouldn't hurt, hint, hint.)

Also, in the next few weeks I plan release my own video on issues with catastrophic anthropogenic (man-made) global warming theory.  The core of this video will be based on this skeptics summary post and my 60-second climate overview as well as my free 80-page skeptics primer, of course.

Al Gore's $100 Million Screensaver

This is an interesting study of the intersection of politics and science at NASA:

The new dramatic invention of the inventor of the Internet was to place
a satellite so far that the whole Earth can be observed 24 hours a day.
Isn't it fascinating? Why didn't you think about that? :-) Some
scientists refined the details for him - for example that the satellite
should be located in the L1 Lagrange point. The price? Well, the first
modest estimate was USD 135 million.

If you think about it for a
while, the scientific content of this project is next to nil. It is a
typical idea of a crackpot who has no tools to determine whether a
project is scientifically interesting or not. Already in 1999, during the Clinton-Gore administration, the project - nicknamed GoreSat or Gore's Screensaver - was more or less doomed. NASA Inspector General has also determined that the project is driven by politics, not science. It was found that the budget estimate was underestimated, too.

How
did they ever justify to study that project at all? Did they just tell
NASA that it has appeared in a dream of a prophet? Well, Al Gore wanted
the fresh picture of the whole Earth (well, just one-half, but it's OK)
to be constantly available as a source of inspiration: people could
finally see through the Internet, his other invention, that the Earth
is a little vulnerable child who has a fever. ;-) NASA added some
survey tasks, including measurements of the albedo every fifteen
minutes, that were not really needed and that are effectively performed
by existing devices, for example by CERES.

Why the NASA Temperture Adjustments Matter

NASA's GISS was recently forced to restate its historical temperature database for the US when Steve McIntyre (climate gadfly) found discontinuities in the data that seemed to imply a processing error.  Which indeed turned out to be the case (store here).

The importance of this is NOT the actual change to the measurements, though it was substantial.  The importance, which the media reporting on this has entirely missed, is it highlights why NASA and other government-funded climate scientists have got to release their detailed methodologies and software for scrutiny.  The adjustments they are making to historical temperatures are often larger(!) than the measured historical warming (here, here, here) so the adjustment methodology is critical. 

This post from Steve McIntyre really shows how hard government-funded climate scientists like James Hansen are working to avoid scientific scrutiny.  Note the contortions and detective work McIntyre and his readers must go through to try to back into what NASA and Hansen are actually doing.  Read in this context, you should be offended by this article.  Here is an excerpt (don't worry if you can't follow the particular discussion, just get a sense of how hard NASA is making it to replicate their adjustment process):

If I average the data so adjusted, I get the NASA-combined version
up to rounding of 0.05 deg C. Why these particular values are chosen is
a mystery to say the least. Version 1 runs on average a little warmer
than version 0 where they diverge ( and they are identical after 1980).
So why version 0 is adjusted down more than version 1 is hard to figure
out.

Why is version 2 adjusted down prior to 1990 and not after? Again
it's hard to figure out. I'm wondering whether there isn't another
problem in splicing versions as with the USHCN data. One big version of
Hansen's data was put together for Hansen and Lebedeff 1987 and the
next publication was Hansen et al 1999 - maybe different versions got
involved. But that's just a guess. It could be almost anything....It would be interesting to check their source code and see how they get this adjustment, that's for sure.

A basic tenant of science is that you publish enough information such that others can replicate your work.  Hansen and NASA are not doing this, which is all the more insane given that we as taxpayers pay for their work.

Hansen cites the fact that Phil Jones gets somewhat similar results as
evidence of the validity of his calculations. In fairness to Hansen,
while they have not archived code, they have archived enough data
versions to at least get a foothold on what they are doing. In
contrast, Phil Jones at CRU maintains lockdown anti-terrorist security
on his data versions and has even refused FOI requests for his data.
None of these sorts of analyses are possible on CRU data, which may or
may not have problems of its own.

Um, Whatever

James Hansen, NASA climate scientist and lead singer in the climate apocalypse choir, responded to his  temperature data revisions a week ago:

What we have here is a case of dogged contrarians who
present results in ways intended to deceive the public into believing
that the changes have greater significance than reality. They aim to
make a mountain out of a mole hill. I believe that these people are not
stupid, instead they seek to create a brouhaha and muddy the waters in
the climate change story. They seem to know exactly what they are doing
and believe they can get away with it, because the public does not have
the time, inclination, and training to discern what is a significant
change with regard to the global warming issue.

The proclamations of the contrarians are a deceit

Um, whatever.  Remember, this is the man who had large errors in his data set, used by nearly every climate scientist in the world, for years, and which were only recently discovered by Steven McIntyre (whom Hansen refuses to even name in his letter).  These errors persisted for years because Mr. Hansen refuses to allow the software and algorithms he uses to "correct" and adjust the data to be scrutinized by anyone else.  He keeps critical methodologies that are paid for by we taxpayers a secret.  But it is his critics who are deceitful? 

In particular, he is bent out of shape that critics' first presented the new data as a revised ranking of the hottest years rather than as a revised line graph.  But it was Hansen and his folks who made a big deal in the press that 1998 was the hottest year in history.  It was he that originally went for this sound byte rather than the more meaningful and data-rich graph when communicating with the press.  But then he calls foul when his critics mimic his actions?  (Oh, and by the way, I showed it both ways).

Hansen has completely ignored the important lessons from this experience, while focusing like a laser on the trivial.  I explained in detail why this event mattered, and it was not mainly because of the new numbers.  In short, finding this mistake was pure accident -- it was a bit like inferring that the furniture in a house is uncomfortable solely by watching the posture of visitors leaving the house.  That's quite an deductive achievement, but how much more would you learn if the homeowners would actually let you in the house to inspect the furniture.  Maybe its ugly too.

So why does Hansen feel he should be able to shield himself from scrutiny and keep the details of his database adjustments and aggregation methodology a secret?  Because he thinks he is the king.    Just read his letter:

The contrarians will be remembered as court jesters. There is no point
to joust with court jesters. "¦ Court jesters serve as a distraction, a
distraction from usufruct. Usufruct is the matter that the captains
wish to deny, the matter that they do not want their children to know
about.

Why do we allow this kind of secrecy and spurning of scrutiny in science?  Is it tolerated in any other discipline?

Steve McIntyre has his response here.  McIntyre still has my favorite comment ever about Hansen and his gang:

While acolytes may call these guys "professionals", the process of
data adjustment is really a matter of statistics and even accounting.
In these fields, Hansen and Mann are not "professionals" - Mann
admitted this to the NAS panel explaining that he was "not a
statistician". As someone who has read their works closely, I do not
regard any of these people as "professional". Much of their reluctance
to provide source code for their methodology arises, in my opinion,
because the methods are essentially trivial and they derive a certain
satisfaction out of making things appear more complicated than they
are, a little like the Wizard of Oz. And like the Wizard of Oz, they
are not necessarily bad men, just not very good wizards.

Update:  If you have a minute, read Hansen's letter, and then ask yourself:  Does this sound like what I would expect of scientific discourse?  Does he sound more like a politician or a scientist?